Author: Bibliophile tropicale
Disclaimer: I don't own the characters of Perry Mason and Della Street. My reward is not monetary. The only reward is the joy of creating and the pleasure of bringing these characters to life.
Summary: At the end of a long and tedious week, spent attending a National Trial Lawyer's Convention in Chicago, Perry Mason calls Della Street in LA and instructs her to purchase a ticket to Jamaica, reserve a cottage on the beach in Negril, and meet him at Rick's Café.
Acknowledgments: I would like to thank my beta reader for her time, patience, critiquing, correcting, wisdom and encouragement.
Feedback is welcome!
Perry Mason-Della Street
Perry Mason carried his bags from the retreat's office to the small cottage on the beach. For the past two hours, he'd made his way from the airport through the island's countryside to the isolated coast of Long Bay and south to the small town of Negril.
The path wound through stands of sea grapes, bougainvillea and mangrove, its botanical beauty a direct contrast to the brick, pavement and plastic flower arrangements of the past seven days. Slowing down at a particularly sharp turn, he paused long enough to appreciate his surroundings. The line of surf curved northward, the sloping beaches becoming steeper as they headed toward the cliffs below Negril's lighthouse. The sky was turning a deep rose as the sun disappeared below the horizon. The ocean ahead gave out its low rhythmic moan as the ghostly white breakers rolled onto the shore. It was just as beautiful as he remembered, but to him it was only a shadow of the image his mind had returned to time and again in the previous hectic days.
Mason moved on; his pace quickened with anticipation. He longed for reality, not a memory. As he approached the cottage, he barely noticed how the sea breezes stirred the coconut palms surrounding the bungalow as he hurried around its small porch and fitted the key into the front door. As it swung open, the breeze wafted by, stirring the curtains in the open windows.
Perry could smell her presence before he flipped on the light. Her open suitcase sat on the stand near the bed and on the dressing table lay her combs and brushes. Flicking the switch, he dropped his bag beside hers. Her robe hung across the open bathroom door and as he touched its softness, he could smell her essence. It hadn't been long; the material was still wet, not having time to dry in the balmy air.
He grimaced at the thought of just missing her. Why he hadn't asked her to wait for him at the room? Sometime she followed his directions too well.
Thirty minutes later, after a quick shower and a change into a white short-sleeved shirt and khaki pants, Mason entered the café. The place was jumping. The dining area was filled and the dance floor alive with dancers. The band was performing a calypso number with the drums and shakers sending a beat that carried through the air like some urgent jungle message. Overhead ceiling fans stirred the balmy air over a large u-shaped bar as customers nursed their drinks, made idle conversation, and plied their pick-up lines while watching the dancers.
Mason' eyes scanned the dimly lit room. The bar was packed. As he pressed his way through the crowd a seat became vacant and he slipped immediately onto the stool and motioned the bar tender for a drink. Sipping the concoction, he listened to the easy rhythm of the band finishing their song. The next number moved into a slow dance, easily changing from calypso to mainland music to native reggae with each performance. His eyes traveled down the bar taking in subtle details of each person, their gestures and their conversation or lack of conversation with others. His search ended when he saw her sitting diagonally across from him.
Della Street's profile was turned to him, her lips smiling as she listened to the man sitting next to her. The man appeared to be in his 40's, his hair collar length and well groomed, his shirt opened to reveal a gold necklace. He was tanned except for a white streak on the fourth finger of his left hand. His hair was dark and his eyes moved over Della with the same appreciation a trainer gives fine horseflesh.
Perry smiled. "Mr. Gold Necklace" was on the make. He'd seen his type before and watched with fascination as she listened politely without giving any encouraging signals. He loved her style, controlled friendliness.
Her hands toyed with a large tropical mixed drink; her fingers twirled a colorful umbrella. Mason watched as a tall man, who he dubbed Mr. Voyeur, stood behind them, alternating between watching the dancers and checking on Mr. Gold Necklace's progress. Apparently he was passing time, hoping for his own chance at the dark-haired beauty.
Another gray-haired man sat to Della Street's left, talking idly to a young woman, half his age, who sat next to him. Perry sipped his drink as he watched the man turn occasionally to give Della the once over and identified him as Mr. Patient.
Mason couldn't blame the men for hovering around her, hoping for her attention. She was stunning in a sundress of brilliant pink flowers against a white background. Its cut revealed her soft curves and skin. Her dark eyes sparkled, her lips full with the hint of pink lipstick.
Perry was watching her with the same appreciation as the other men around her when her eyes finally captured his. Her eyelashes lowered; her lips formed a seductive smile. He gave her his most suave grin and raised his drink to her in a toast, then brought the glass to his lips.
Della momentarily returned her attention to the man next to her and nodded, Mr. Gold Necklace's lips still moving, his conversation still continuing. Then she turned back towards her glass as she picked up the stem of the cherry from her drink and brought it slowly to her lips, her eyes staring across at Perry, her gaze meeting his. She allowed her lips to slide easily around the fruit before pulling it from its stem. She could feel his eyes caressing her, beckoning her.
She turned back to Mr. Gold Necklace smiling again, nodding. The man had stopped talking. Instead, he watched her actions with the cherry, swallowed hard and continued his train of thought.
Perry almost felt sorry for the man. He well remembered the time when he too had watched her with desire, not sure how his next word or move would be received. Thank goodness those days were behind them.
He leaned his right elbow on the bar. Taking his drink in his hand, he finished its contents and received a refill from the bartender. Capturing her eyes with his, he guided them to his fingertip that rested gently on the rim of the glass. Slowly his finger stroked the rim, moving in an easy circle around the glass. He watched her moisten her lips, as she watched him then bring the same finger to his lips.
Oblivious to her gaze, Mr. Gold Necklace continued talking, trying to impress her. He moved his hand casually to her shoulder, touching her lightly, testing his ground. Mr. Voyeur and Mr. Patient checked his progress and frowned.
Della glanced at the man's hand and cocked her eyebrow. Message received. The hand was discreetly removed and the aimless chatter returned.
Mason almost choked on his drink as he tried to keep from laughing out loud. With one small move, that eyebrow could drive home a point better than most of his colleagues could accomplish in their entire defense.
He watched as she nodded slightly, but turned her attention back to a more interesting exchange. Her eyes once again locked onto his as she raised her drink stirrer to her lips, forming an "o" with her lips. She sipped the red fruity mixture, her eyes half-closed.
Mr. Patient followed her gaze to the dark haired man across the bar. His eyes moved back and forth between them, taking the scene in pieces. His lips pursed in annoyance. He turned back to the girl next to him, spoke, then tossed out bills for his drink and got up.
Mr. Voyeur standing behind him quickly took his seat and ordered a drink, glancing sideways at Della. Mason eased himself from the stool and made his way through the crowd.
Della noted the movement and turned to look in his direction; her eyes widened as she noticed a different face where Mr. Patient had been sitting. This was getting confusing, the men swarming like bees, each hoping to leave with her tonight.
She turned to realize Mr. Gold Necklace next to her had stopped talking, his eyes staring at her. "For someone so beautiful, you're very quiet."
Della smiled and replied. "Well I …." She stopped when she saw Perry's hand tap the man's shoulder.
"Excuse me," the lawyer said eloquently. "The waiter asked me to tell you your wife is on the line." He nodded towards the bar phone.
"My wife!" the man exclaimed in disbelief. "You must be mistaken."
Perry smiled good-naturedly. "You certainly fit the description. She was very," he paused for a split second, "concerned, said you left your wedding band in the bathroom."
The man hastily covered the white area on his left hand.
Della Street's eyes widened as she exclaimed incredulously. "You're married!"
"Excuse me." The man quickly rose and scurried in the direction of the telephone.
Mason took the seat next to her, his lips smiling in refrained laughter, his eyes twinkling in delight.
"Hello, stranger," she murmured softly, returning his gaze with amusement and great affection.
"Do you come here often?" he asked with a boyish grin, the dimple in his left cheek appearing.
She brought the stirrer to her lips, sipping the red mixture seductively. "No," she whispered, "my boss has been away and I've been very, very busy."
The attorney's eyes traveled beyond Della to rest on Mr. Voyeur sitting beside her, catching him looking from the corner of his eye, watching them.
"Your boss has been away?" he replied. "I would think that would make your job easier."
Her laughter brought more looks her way. "Oh, no! You see," she began, "my boss is no ordinary man who sits in his office and waits for clients and court appearances. He has to go out and make things happen. You know… shake things up, fly by the seat of his pants. Sooo, when he is away, I have to catch up on all the work that I don't finish because of our late nights hiding on fire escapes from the police and camping on listing boats."
Mason tilted his head and grinned appreciatively. "That sounds very exciting!"
Della twirled the paper umbrella in her drink before looking up, her lashes fluttering. "Oh it is," she whispered. "We live an exciting life. We work hard," she added with great emphasis, "and we play hard."
"Really," he exclaimed smiling. "Well, I hope he appreciates all your hard work."
Her eyes glowed. Her full lips moved ever so slightly. His body responded. "Oh, I think he does," she purred. "You see, I'm very, very good at what I do."
Perry shifted slightly and realized time hadn't changed some things after all. She could still make him choose his words very carefully. "So while your boss is away, things are…."
Della quickly filled in his sentence her voice firm, "Lonely." She teased him with a pout. "Busy… but lonely very lonely."
Mason turned and sipped his drink, staring ahead. His eyes turned to the side to look at her. "I could change all of that."
"Really?" she replied raising her eyebrows, glancing at Mr. Voyeur still sitting at her side, seeing him quickly turn to look away.
Perry smiled slowly, knowing the affect it would have on her. "I have a cottage on the beach and a bottle of chilling champagne. I like dancing, late night walks on the beach," he hesitated, his grin mischievous, "and," he leaned over and whispered into her ear. He watched her face flush to a rosy pink, her eyes looking demurely down.
Della's voice throaty and soft replied, "You're bad Perry, bad, bad, bad."
"Bad, bad, bad." he repeated, enjoying her reaction.
Her smile turned sly. "When you're good, Counselor, you're very good." She looked up to him, her eyelashes fluttering, "and when you're bad, you're wonderful." She said slowly with emphasis.
His eyes smoldered, "Isn't that one of the things you love about me?"
She met their intensity. "Yes," she whispered back. "Most definitely."
He picked up his drink, quickly finishing its contents then extended his hand. "Would you care to dance?"
Wordlessly, she rose and entwined her fingers with his as they made their way to the dance floor. His arm circled her waist, pressing her against him. She reached up and brought his head down next to hers. They moved as one with the music. As they turned, Perry Mason saw Mr. Voyeur watching them, his face a portrait of astonishment.
Two thousand miles from Los Angeles they enjoyed their anonymity. Far from the press and knowing eyes he felt comfortable bending to kiss her bare shoulder and nuzzle her hair.
Both were enjoying their new freedom, when he heard her whisper. "Let's go for that moonlit walk on the beach."
Wordlessly, they left Rick's Café, strolling down the boardwalk. The full moon had risen in the east, casting long shadows that crossed the beach to dance on the incoming waves. Della Street's hand instinctively reached for his. Rick's Café blended into the rest of the ocean's night sounds as they followed the shoreline's curves to their cottage right around the next bend.